George Horne: I was so gutted to miss France game - I'll do everything I can to win back Scotland place

With admiral candour, George Horne admits he was “gutted” to be dropped for Scotland’s game in France after playing a significant role in the opening two Six Nations wins but the scrum-half is hoping his fast-paced style will find favour again when Gregor Townsend sits down to pick his squad to face Ireland.

Horne returned to club duties last week, kicking four conversions as Glasgow Warriors thumped Zebre 50-8 to strengthen their prospects of a top-four finish. The focus now switches back to the international game, with Townsend due to name his team on Friday for Sunday’s game against the Six Nations pace-setters.

Eyebrows were raised in some quarters when the Scotland coach selected Ben White and Horne as his frontline scrum-halves for the opening games of the championship against England and Wales. It meant no place in the match-day 23 for Ali Price, a fixture in the No 9 jersey since the last Rugby World Cup. But a closer examination of the situation would have revealed that Horne had had been Glasgow’s preferred starter at scrum-half this season and was pivotal to the club’s revival under new coach Franco Smith. As well as adding dynamism at the base of the scrum, Horne has been a sure-footed place kicker and reckons he has a success rate of above 80 per cent for the current campaign.

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White has started, and impressed, in all three of Scotland’s Six Nations matches but Horne made significant contributions off the bench in the first two. He played in the final 11 minutes of the victory at Twickenham and was involved in the build-up to Duhan van der Merwe’s winning try. He then replaced White for the last 21 minutes of the record win over Wales as Scotland made it two from two at the start of the championship for the first time since 1996.

George Horne, centre, celebrates Scotland's win over Wales last month. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)George Horne, centre, celebrates Scotland's win over Wales last month. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
George Horne, centre, celebrates Scotland's win over Wales last month. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

Townsend brought Price back to the bench for the France game, at the expense of Horne, and it was a bitter pill to swallow for the 27-year-old. “I was absolutely gutted,” he said. “Everyone wants to play every week for Scotland, especially in these massive games, so I was disappointed but I also understand that we’ve got a lot of depth at scrum-half and good competition there. I’ll be doing everything I can in training to make sure I get back in the squad. These are the games everyone wants to be involved in. The Six Nations is the best tournament in the world … apart from the World Cup. So, to play in those two games and get two wins, and feel like I contributed well off the bench was really pleasing, so hopefully I can get another crack at it.”

Scotland are chasing their first Triple Crown in 33 years this weekend while Ireland could clinch the Six Nations title Horne said Townsend had offered a constructive appraisal of his performances. “He’s been positive. Both the games suited me coming in and upping the tempo. We’re a really fit squad at the moment so we want to take advantage of that later in the game, which suits the way I play. I had a bit of feedback on why I didn’t play against France, so a couple of things to work on there and hopefully I can show that I should be his man going forward.”

Horne also has his sights set on a top-two finish in the United Rugby Championship with Glasgow, knowing it would give them home advantage in the play-offs. The Warriors currently lie fourth, five points behind third-placed Ulster and 10 behind second-placed Stormers, with three rounds of fixtures remaining. A top-eight finish guarantees a place in the play-offs, while top four would give them a home tie in the quarter-finals. Top two would mean home advantage in the semis too, if they were to make it that far. Glasgow’s next game is against fifth-placed Munster – who are only two points behind – in Limerick on March 25, the weekend after the Six Nations, before they finish the regular season with back-to-back games at Scotstoun in April against Scarlets and Connacht.

“It’s a tight league so we know we need to win pretty much every week,” Horne said. “It would be great to finish in that top two – I think Leinster are pretty much home and hosed [in first place] – but a home quarter and semi would be massive going into the end of the year. Munster away is a massive game – they are on our heels at the moment – then Scarlets and Connacht at home. All three we’ve got to win, so it’s exciting.”

George Horne helped Glasgow Warriors defeat Zebre Parma at Scotstoun.  (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)George Horne helped Glasgow Warriors defeat Zebre Parma at Scotstoun.  (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)
George Horne helped Glasgow Warriors defeat Zebre Parma at Scotstoun. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

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